Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"We're following the Piper, as we dance beneath the Moon..."

Today is June 26th.  Legend has it that on this day in 1284, in the town of Hamelin, Germany, a man dressed in many colors led the children of the town away with his flute, with only one boy whose leg was injured not being able to follow.
Oldest known painting of the Piper
Was this story true? Was it just a metaphor for the plague, or age, or did they just have pedo’s even back then? Whatever the case, the story of the Pied Piper has been one of the essential folktales of Western Civilization. Sometimes he’s been a heroic figure, other times he’s been a villainous figure. So today I thought I’d look at some of the skirmishes comic book heroes have had with villains patterned after the Pied Piper.

 While I’m not fond of the Marvel Family, I did enjoy the story “Pied Piper of Himmler” from Captain Marvel Jr #2. This Pied Piper was actually a Nazi trying to lure children away to be made into soldiers. This story made clever use of the fact that CM’s alter-ego Freddy Freeman also had an injured leg, making him analogous to the boy in the legend.
By the way, that’s Bernard Baily on art in this story. Who knew he could imitate other people’s styles so well? I could have sworn this was Mac Raboy’s work, because none of these panels have any of Baily’s usual idiosyncrasies when it comes to faces, etc…
Well, okay, maybe not all of them

  Over at Quality Comics, the Ray battled another Nazi Pied Piper in Smash Comics #17. This guy preyed on the homeless and dock workers instead of children.

  This story didn’t make as good a use of the actual legend as the Captain Marvel Jr. story, but who could complain when Lou Fine was doing the art?

  DC reprinted this in one of their 100 Page specials. Why the hell didn’t they choose this story for their Greatest Golden Age Stories Ever Told volume instead of that lousy Black Condor story? That’s some top-notch art, and a waaaay better introduction to Lou Fine.

 Over at MLJ, the Black Hood went up against a particularly gruesome looking Pied Piper in Jackpot Comics #7. If this guy looks familiar, it's because I’ve mentioned this story’s shameless Simon & Kirby splash page swipe before. I also apologize to Irv Novick (Who I blamed last time for the swipe), as it was Sam Cooper who actually drew this.
  And it doesn’t just extend to the splash page. Even the fight scenes and panel borders desperately seem to be imitating the S&K style:

  That said, this story distinguished itself with a gothic horror atmosphere, as this Piper targeted a wealthy family in a countryside mansion. There were several pretty creepy scenes of him hypnotizing people into killing themselves, which Cooper rendered by depicting the victims as looking like white-skinned, blank-eyed zombies! (And for all I know, maybe that was a swipe of the ‘Hollow Men’ from the Cap story in All Winners Comics #1). It still made for a fairly effective story.
No Black Hood, that's not you make the 'Y' in YMCA

 And just as how Batman would later battle a Mad Hatter obsessed with pipes but not Alice in Wonderland, Batman also battled a Pied Piper obsessed with (smoking) pipes with no connection to the legend! (I admit I haven’t read this story in a long time, so I could be wrong). A team up between this Piper and the mustachioed hat-obsessed Hatter needs to happen someday. Where’s Brave and the Bold when you need it?
  By the way, there was also a heroic Pied Piper who featured in Holyoke’s Cat-Man Comics. He was a framed attorney who decided to clear his name using a magic flute he had conveniently laying around in his antique collection (Oh, Golden Age…). His costume simply consisted of a fedora and sunglasses.

 For such a low-key hero, most of his stories had an occult theme. In one story, he battled a vampire who was not only real, but bore a striking resemblance to the Green Goblin as he was depicted in Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark!

  Of course, the most famous Piper in comics is Flash’s sometimes friend, sometimes foe. And for a special treat, here’s his debut from Flash Comics #106! All © DC.

 Man, Carmine sure loved the Hokusai wave, huh?


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the fine research! I thought that the Piper first appeared in Flash, but that would be too easy, right?